Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is This The Future of TV or Is Ashton Kutcher Desperate?

I blogged briefly about US TV failure The Beautiful Life a while back. It was one of the most uninteresting pilots I've ever seen, taking a great idea and mangling it beyond belief. The first episode rated badly and so did the second. The show was pulled from the schedule of The CW while they tinkered with Melrose Place to make it a hit and gloated about how big the Vampire Diaries had gotten. There was some of the usual moaning from the cast and producers about how "we weren't given a chance" that may or may not have been accurate and promises of the remaining episodes being screened elsewhere. I don't think anyone took notice and the lack of any fan buzz around this seemed like a sign that was a permanent favourite for the "shows nobody cared about" list.

But now, we have a new development. Ashton Kutcher, the executive producer has struck a deal to have the remaining episodes of the show put on YouTube. Kutcher's logic as discussed in the video below (and here) is that nobody knew about the show in the first place. Now with YouTube he think he can get a name for the show and get sponsors to greenlight more episodes.

How cringey is that video? It screams "big budget marketing firm try to recreate lo-fi web videos". Shudder.

I'm fascinated by this idea for a number of reasons however. There is alot of guff about how web content being the new TV that for the most part doesn't seem to really have impacted in a way that there is an actual show everybody follows online in the same huge way as network TV (I have a feeling I right be wrong here and in fact there is a wealth of hit online shows I'm not watching). But what we do have is loads of people watching their TV on YouTube and loads of other sites instead of on TV. These videos are not being uploaded by their makers like this show but that doesn't stops thousands using it to catch up with their favourites. Its the reason why some key US imports get screened immediately on our shores as opposed to the month long wait other shows endure. If this goes well it might lead to more streaming of shows being done on YouTube. Though given the issues with rights etc its not likely to happen to shows that are actually on air.

If Kutcher can get enough hype for this show, it will be interesting to see what it does for web content in general. Will it build audiences for them and get them hard cash to make TV stations truly nervous? Or is this just a way to dump poorly made dramas in a place where even less people will watch them?

It is undoubtedly a great gimmick and it will be fun to see how this develops. I have a horrible suspicion that I'm going to get hooked on this show if only because Mischa Barton's performance is so bad it is frightfully entertaining. And as far as I'm concerned somebody needs this to get Veronica Mars and Popular brought back to life. (Can you imagine?)

At the very least it gives Ashton something other to do than tweet all the time. It'd be great if Demi Moore could do the same thing.

Just saying.

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